ARLENE VIOLET - The double standard continues in Rhode Island

ARLENE VIOLET - The double standard continues in Rhode Island

Earlier this summer, I wrote a column about the North Providence school superintendent who repeatedly abused a town credit card by charging personal item after item, courtesy of the taxpayers. Despite a six-figure salary and thousands of dollars of charges over some months’ time, she never repaid the town for these “mistakes.” As I suggested in that column, a poor person in South Providence would have the proverbial book thrown at them. To date, the silence is deafening as to whether the superintendent will be prosecuted or, for that matter, suffer any punishment for the malfeasance like losing her pro rata pension benefits for this period.

Just in case the reader thinks that her case is an abnormality, flash forward to Aug. 23 where the Providence Journal reported on the company that ran two troubled children’s group homes and who misspent at least $182,000 on questionable and disallowed expenditures. Among the findings of an audit were:

• Unexplained rental payments in differing amounts for facilities which are owned by the company’s executive director;

• Thousands of dollars in rent and taxes paid on a burned out property owned by the executive director;

• Unexplained extra payments to the executive director and several other staffers while support staff were underpaid by 15.5 percent;

• A $26,500 “partner’s draw” paid to the executive director in addition to his salary;

• Payments for health insurance for the executive director and a person who doesn’t even work for the agency;

• Purchases at a tobacco and electronic cigarette store, upscale restaurants and hotels;

• Unexplained payments on unknown loans;

• A $2,500 payment simply made out to cash.

All of the aforesaid charges were done during the course of slightly more than a year.

Daniel Brito, the executive director in question, refuses to answer any questions about his tenure.

Furthermore, the state’s child advocate issued a blistering report about the lack of care and services for the youth entrusted to the company’s group homes. In fact, one of the group home managers was arrested on federal charges of trafficking a 17-year-old girl for prostitution, even tooling around in the group home’s van to collect money from young women being prostituted. The child advocate also found that virtually no clinical services or supervision were available to the children left in the company’s care despite receiving $1.047 million from the state for the period in question, i.e. Feb. 1, 2017 to April 6, 2018. No audit was done yet for years before this period.

So, what do you think are the chances that anyone, including the executive director, will be prosecuted for misappropriating money? As aggravating as it is that the state seems incapable of monitoring contracts to private agencies to prevent the milking of the cash cow, the real problem is that these people like the executive director do what they do because they think that even if they are caught they will get a slap on the wrist. The attitude of the state police feeds into this sense of impunity. In the ProJo article the spokesperson stated that the state police only investigate if someone asks them to do so or if there is evidence of wrongdoing. Fortunately, the auditor did ask for a review. Hopefully, it won’t be like the slap-dash one conducted for 38 Studios.

Question: Will anybody be prosecuted?

Violet is an attorney and former state attorney general.

Comments

Even if they are prosecuted, a quick guilty plea to lesser charges will get them a slap on the wrist sentence.

The current and previous AG in RI being ineffectual.
The General Assembly blocking a RI IG.
The only politicians that care less are Fung & Raimondo.